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Modern Slavery

Today, 40.3 million people live in modern slavery.

Slavery is often hidden in homes, in restaurants, on farms and on building sites. What is common to all of these examples, is that someone is being exploited and controlled.

In 2019 alone, Anti-Slavery Australia helped over 225 people who had been trafficked to or from Australia, or had experienced slavery-like conditions while in Australia, including forced marriage, servitude and forced labour.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In Australia, only 1 in 5 victims of slavery are identified. That means that 80% of victims do not get the support they need and remain in slavery in Australia. And this means that the cases we see are likely to be a small proportion of the scale of trafficking and slavery in Australia.

Some groups of people are also more vulnerable than others. For example, backpackers, international students, asylum seekers and migrants on limited working visas may not know their rights in Australia.

Why does modern slavery occur?

Modern slavery persists today due to a number of reasons.

Poverty: Although significant progress has been made to reduce global poverty rates, today more than 780 million people live below the international poverty line. Poverty encompasses more than a lack of income. Its manifestations include hunger, malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services. Those who are marginalised and excluded are particularly susceptible to abuse.

Discrimination and marginalisation: Women, children, migrants and refugees, ethnic and religious minorities often face discrimination and are vulnerable to enslavement. At particular risk are those fleeing war and armed conflict.

Civil disruption and armed conflict: The instability caused by armed conflict can displace communities and expose communities to extreme harm and exploitation, including forced labour networks. Already marginalised groups are particularly at risk fleeing war and armed conflict.

Weak rule of law and impunity: Slavery thrives in contexts where there is the law enforcement system is weak or absent. In some cases, slavery is supported by the local authorities and police. Legal frameworks require enforcement to ensure that human traffickers do not operate with impunity.

Natural disasters: Natural disasters can displace communities and increase the desperation of marginalised groups. Traffickers prey upon displaced people. In dire situations, displaced people are often vulnerable to false offers and are forced to seek out perilous employment.